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Classroom Management

Do This Experiment if Your Kids Are Name Calling {Giveaway}

So, I had this idea a couple of years ago.  It started with the curiosity of the experiment Dr. Emoto had about water and snowflakes.  In case you don’t know Dr. Emoto spoke different words to water and then froze it.  After freezing the water, he saw the water form different structures and shapes. The kind words made beautiful snowflakes while the bad words made the water form in less desirable shapes.  I showed this to my students first.

Then I saw where someone had recreated this experiment with rice and water.  I decided to try this at home one summer where I could speak to the jars without interruption for 30 days.  When I was at home, I chose 3 equal sized jars and put one cup of dry rice in each.  Then I poured one cup of water on top of the rice in each of the three jars.  On one jar I labeled LOVE, one I labeled HATE, and on the third jar I wrote nothing.  Then I spoke to the jars for 30 days.  I said, ” I love you” to the love jar and “I hate you” to the jar labeled hate.  I did nothing to the jar labeled with nothing.  After 30 days I opened the jars.  I was in total suspense.  When I opened the jars, they all stunk really badly, but they all had distinctly different smells.  They all grew mold.  Interestingly, the jar that was ignored grew more mold than the jar that was labeled hate.

Now fast forward to a couple of years later.  I did this with my class starting on the first day of school.  This time I did the experiment a little differently and I recommend doing the experiment this way with your class if you decide to do this. I boiled 3 cups of white rice and measured out one cup for each of three equal sized jars and sealed them.  I, again, labeled the jars, love, hate, and then just a blank jar.  Each time the students would leave for the day, they would say “I love you” to the love jar and “I hate you” to the hate jar.  Now to the blank jar, they were supposed to do nothing and say nothing.  Every now and then a child would pick up the blank jar.  I had it marked on the calendar for the day we would open the jars.  We just finished the experiment this past Friday.  This was the 30th day of us talking to the jars, but not the 30th day of the jars sitting.  On days we were not at school, the jars just sat.  I was a little worried that this would have a negative effect on the experiment, but it did not. (below the lids are ajar because this is the day we opened them)

Before we did the experiment, I had the students predict what would happen to each jar.  None of them predicted what actually happened.  I was also surprised about what happened.The rice DID NOT mold.  About mid way through the 30 days the rice started to liquefy and become just white slush.  The granules of rice were no longer visible.  The consistency was more like oatmeal.  When we opened the jars, they all stunk but not as bad as when I did the experiment at home.  The love jar smelled like fermented bread.  The hate jar smelled like fermented cheese and had more of a sour smell.  In my opinion, the blank jar smelled the worst and also smelled fermented.

To make sure everyone had a chance to smell the jars without having their peers adverse reactions affect their experience, I had each student go smell the jars individually with their back turned to the class.  The jars were set up in the back of the room.  The children were busy working on another activity while I let each child go one by one to the back for jar observations. I instructed them before hand to not make any reactions to the class so that everyone had a fair chance to form their own opinion.  I  had the students write down the results of what the jars smelled like after they smelled them on the same paper that they had made their predictions 30 days earlier.  Then I let them talk at their table groups about what they noticed.  Later I pulled all the students to the carpet to discuss what they noticed and their thoughts.  Of course, they wanted to talk about how it smelled like “poop”, “farts”, and the like! 🙂  When we got past what the jars smelled like, I asked the kids why they thought I had them do this.  Some kids recognized the fact that their words changed the rice, and were in amazement about how this had happened.  (below the jars from the back–I know the jars look like different amounts, but I measured each one the same)

I must mention a HUGE teacher moment happened during this.  One of those moments that makes your job worth while :).  I had a child come up to me after we had talked about how words affect people when you say mean things to them just like our words affected the rice positively or negatively.  He said, “You know, I’ve been saying mean things to a someone in my class, and he’s here in this room right now.  I said, “Do you feel like you need to apologize?”  He shook his head saying yes.  I said, “Well, you are welcome to step outside with him and apologize.”  And, so he did!

Who would’ve thought that talking to rice would change the heart of a child?

 

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Why Won’t My Students STOP TALKING??!!

What do you do when your students talk too much? I know it drives you insane!  Is there a way to curb this behavior without taking away a privilege from everyone–moving clips, taking away Dojo Points etc.?

I’m going to share with you what works for me.  First I start out the year with an anchor chart like the one pictured here.

I review each of the five items on the chart.  I have students practice acting like each of the five expectations on the chart.  For example, I have them read the expectations with me.  When we read number three I have the students whisper in their teams.  When we read number four I have them practice using low voices in teams.  We talk about how students’ bodies look when students are using soft voices–how their bodies are close together.  I even have children practice raising their hands to ask a question.  We discuss how a child waits to be called on before making any noise, how students don’t get called on when making “ooh, ooh, monkey noises” etc.

Now, what happens if children are talking too loudly while working?  After I have given them a warning or two about the class volume, I have found this to be a simple solution.  “Students, you have been talking too loudly.  Because of this, we are going to sit in absolute silence for one minute.  If after one minute no one has made a sound, you will be able to talk again in low voices.  During that minute if one person makes a sound–even a whisper–I will start the one minute over.”

I hold to what I said, and the noise magically lowers.  Sometimes it seems that children just  needed a break from their conversation and noise level to readjust their volume.  I hope these tips help you.  It is never too late in the year to establish your expectations.  Don’t give up if you are struggling with a talkative class. 🙂

How to Make an Easy, Reusable, No-Sew, Table Skirt

So last year I was going to make this beautiful table skirt with long strips of fabric tied around a piece of ribbon. I’m sure you have seen pictures on Pinterest. I stood in Jo-Anne’s fabric store for hours over the course of a couple of days debating over the best coordinating patterns and colors. I picked out some patterns with blues and greens in them to match my neon green door–seriously my door is painted neon green. Then time went by, and I found other things more important as I moved into my room. Hence, I never made the skirt. Feeling overwhelmed by cutting that many pieces of fabric strips in a straight line and hearing from another teacher how much work these skirts took…I decided to try something else.

Easy, no-sew, reusable fabric table skirt enters! I had noticed a teacher last year tack fabric to her desk with push pins and it stayed with no trouble. This teacher’s fabric just hung straight with not pleats, ruffles, etc. This gave me an idea! I measured the fabric to make sure I had enough to go around the front and sides of the table I wanted to cover. Instead of sewing a hem in the bottom, I folded it over and taped it with masking tape. It looks just like the hem had been sewn. No one will ever know the difference. Next, I started at one end of the table and put a thumbtack in the fabric and through the table. Most school type tables are made with particle wood and so a tack will push right through this.

If you double the fabric over itself about an inch then this makes nice pleats.  I did this about every five inches.  I wasn’t super precise with my measuring, but if you lay a yard stick down beside the edge of the table to measure, it works out pretty evenly.

As you can see, the finished skirt is below.  This fabric helps to really brighten up the room and gave me a ton of extra storage, which I really needed.  This project took me probably less than two hours.  The most time is spent measuring.

What’s great about this project is that I did no damage to the fabric.  I didn’t sew the hem.  I didn’t hot glue the hem.  I didn’t even hot glue the fabric to the table.  What does this mean?  I can use this fabric over for another project like a bulletin board, a table cloth etc. if I ever want to.

So here’s the step by step process you need if you plan on adding a skirt to one of your tables.

  1. Measure the fabric to make sure you have enough to go around the sides of the table.  If you want a pleat every 5 inches, then divide the total inches of the sides of the table you are covering by 5.  This is your number of pleats.  Then multiply this pleats number by 2.  This gives you extra fabric to overlap when making your pleats.  Add this number to the sides of the table you are covering.  This should give you the length of fabric you will need to cover the table.
  2. I made the height of the fabric about 26 or 27 inches to hang enough to cover my junk.  I made the official height 25 inches hanging from the edge of the table.  The extra 1 or 2 inches gave me enough to make my masking tape hem.  You could make your hem longer, but I really didn’t want to have it dragging on the floor for foot traffic.
  3. Start at the end of the table and tack in your fabric.
  4. Measure 5 inches (or however many inches distance you want your pleats).
  5. Overlap your fabric about an inch and place another tack on top of the overlapped fabric.
  6. Continue repeating this pattern until you make it to the end of the area you are wanting covered.

Can a Human Circuit Light an LED bulb?

This past year when we were building lemon batteries, students had many of their own investigative questions.  For one, students wondered if lemon juice would light an LED bulb.  As a result, we tested lemon juice, apple juice, salt water, and many other liquids.  Acting on their own questions fueled even more curiosity.

One student wondered if we could build a human circuit.  I didn’t think it would be possible to light an LED bulb with a human circuit.  I researched it on Google before I tried this activity with the students, and I found NOTHING about being able to light an LED with a human circuit.  I had the students predict whether they thought that we could accomplish the lighting of an LED.  Only about three out of ten students thought we could light the bulb.

Here is what we did:

  1. I had each student get one alligator clip wire to connect a pre-1982 penny and a zinc nail.  (Doing this will give you about two more wires than you need, but at least everyone is busy.)
  2. I had about 10 students stand in a circle.
  3. Then each student in the circle held one pre-1982 penny in one hand between two fingers and with the other hand held one zinc nail between two fingers.
  4. Between each of the sets of students in the circle, I had the students hold the wire of an LED bulb.  One student held one wire (positive) coming out of the bulb while another student held the other wire (negative).
  5. I made sure everyone was making a complete circuit for the electricity to pass through.

Then I heard the unthinkable.  “I saw it light up!”  one child exclaimed.

Now, I thought the students just saw a reflection, and it really wasn’t lighting up. Speaking to myself here—“Oh, ye of little faith.”  Children are so optimistic, and I was blatantly reminded of my pessimism at this moment.

I turned off the lights because I wanted to be sure they weren’t imagining this. Sure enough, the electrical current flowed through all of the kids to create a human battery and light up an LED!!!

Side note:  In case you aren’t having success with your human circuit.  Make sure each child is actually making connection with a penny and a nail.  There must be a penny, nail pattern in the circle.  Flip the LED bulb the opposite direction if it doesn’t work the first time since each of the wires/prongs coming out of the LED are either positive or negative.

This could be an amazing team building experience with your students at the beginning of the year!

Are You Discouraged? Keep Climbing

Do you have a seemingly unreachable child in your class?  Here is the story of my climb to reach one of mine.  A 5th grade girl, who seemed to hide behind her long, beautiful, brown hair and glasses, had no drive to learn and was passively, aggressively defiant at times.  Angela’s defiance never was loud, but it was just enough for her to let me know she didn’t want to do EXACTLY what I said.  Her behavior was also just enough not to get into major trouble.

I had already tried to talk to Angela on several occasions, and had even taken time to sit with her at lunch.  None of these things really seemed to make any difference in her behavior during my class. Now, it is time for my brutal honesty.  My next inclination towards this child was to say “whatever” and go on with teaching–deal with it till the end of the year.  I asked myself if putting in the effort to spend time with Angela was really making any difference?

Upon doing some investigation, I found that Angela’s  mother had died the previous year.  I can only imagine the pain that a child must face when losing one of their parents at such a young age.  How could I not give her another chance and try to reach her?  When I asked her again to speak with me during her lunch, she agreed.  I have met with Angela twice now, and she seems to be having a better attitude in class.

Spend time with those students who have problems that you are tempted to dismiss.  They could just be hurting. 🙂

Have You Read this Summer Must Have Book?

Before I tell you the name of the book, I must say that this book is second only to Fred Jones’s Tools for Teaching.   I must tell you the whole story, though.  I recently acquired a job teaching summer camp for GT learners.  The heads of the camp have provided every child and teacher with a copy of a book and it’s associated workbook which helps teach character.  I have seen this book for years on the shelves of bookstores at back to school time.  I have thought to myself, “Self, you need to read this book!”  However, I never bought it and never read it.

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The book I am speaking of is Ron Clark’s The Essential 55.    Have you read it?  If not, YOU MUST READ this book before school begins.  I guarantee it will change your school life!  I have always known to teach procedures and even known that they need to be specific, but Mr. Clark takes his teaching a step further and teaches his children rules to be successful in life.  Here is a peek at the table of contents:

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While reading through this book, I have to even ask myself if I am following through with these rules in my own life.  Teaching your students to follow these 55 rules for life will surely change your whole school year!  In addition, Mr. Clark has written a workbook to accompany the book he has written so that students can have a chance to practice the specific procedures they have been taught–What a valuable resource!  I will definitely use these next year.

Just look at this video, too, which emphasizes that school needs to prepare students for life which school seldom does.

 

 

How You Can Improve the “Office”

I know you probably have a collection of “offices” in your classroom–you know the two file folders stapled together and laminated if you went the extra mile.  I have a collection of colored file folder ones from when I was in the classroom.  I loved these things!  We would pull them out any time we tested or I wanted students to think independently.

Well, guess what!  Someone has improved “the office”!  The resource teacher borrows the back of my room to work with some of her students.  One day she left this up.  I thought it was genius!  If using a round table, do this for four kids at a time. offices-1

 

She made four regular offices by stapling two file folders together…

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Then she clipped the four offices together with paper clips and binder clips.  This allowed four students to sit and work privately.

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And voil’a taking file folder office to the next level!

How Can You Help Your Students Focus During Instruction

I am going to share a little secret with you about something I have been using for myself and plan on using this year at school.  I have started using essential oils in a diffuser when I am working at my home computer.  I have found that using two drops of peppermint, two drops of lavender, and two drops of lemon in my ultra sonic bamboo diffuser with these oils helps me focus, helps me stay alert if I’m working late at night, and helps lift my spirits.  In other words when I diffuse these three, I just feel happier :D.  See my happy face!

I am planning on taking it to school this year to diffuse in my room.  I have even been thinking of buying another one so I can have one at work and at home.  Not only that, but I have a close friend who took hers to school last year and diffused lemon on a daily basis to help her students focus during instruction.  Another great benefit of using a diffuser at school….if you use the Thieves blend of essential oils, it promotes cleaner air, which is especially needed during those winter months.  As if, ALL teachers haven’t already spent a small fortune on using hand-sani!  This would be another way to support the prevention of germy surfaces!

Here is my diffuser in action with my favorite three oils.  As you can see it sits in my office in front of my gargantuan printer.  This model is my favorite that Young Living sells because it has a one or four hour timer so you can choose how long to diffuse.

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 If you want to order an ultra sonic diffuser and oils like mine, the best value is to buy a starter kit here.  If you decide to buy some be sure to use my enroller and sponsor number 2600343.  I would really appreciate it!  Happy calm school year!

Do You Need a New Chic Planner to Start Your School Year Right? (Freebie)

I mean just LOOK at these new adorable planners, I have found!  These are called “bloom” planners.  I know at the beginning of a year, I look and look for planners that are cute and functional, and at times, have problems finding one.  I normally settle for one at Target and decorate the plain cover with stickers.  With these fabulous planners, there is no need to buy stickers because they come decorated with a pattern that you can choose to suit your personality!

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They have planners suitable for students in middle school, planners for teachers, or even planners that would suit moms.

Bloom even has some accessories that you can use to match your planner cover, like this “to do” list matches it’s planner.

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What’s even better is that they aren’t even very expensive!  Many of them are between $10 and $13 at the time of this post writing.  I know Office Depot sells planners many times that are around $20, and they aren’t even cute!  I put them back immediately!  The teacher planner, though, is priced around $26, but it is well worth it for the bulk of planning capabilities available.  Just look at the teacher planner features…

Brightly colored tabs…

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Monthly and Weekly Planning Options…IMG_1885

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…a place for student information and right next to the student information, a parent communication log!

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And one of my favorites is the pretty design on the inside front and back cover.  Also, there is a handy pocket in the back!

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There are also other nice goal setting feature pages embedded within each month.  I personally don’t know if I would use these.  However, this is a nice option.  I would probably do better writing my goals on the monthly calendar, so that it would always be in front of me.  Also, there are inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout the planner.

Some other nice features are a section of graph paper for possible seating charts, and a page for substitute teacher information (I wouldn’t want to leave my planner behind for the sub ;)).  This teacher planner could potentially be your go-to book where almost all of your important and often used information is stored–an organizational lifesaver!

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, I teamed up with bloom to offer this free planner and mousepad to you.

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All you have to do is sign up below to win this ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE mousepad and planner set!

The contest ends on July 19th at 11:59 p.m Eastern Time.  I will announce a winner on the evening of Monday, July 20th! a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

How You Can Make Cute & Cheap Rewards for Kids

This is how my idea all began.  My mom had given me some adorable sticky notes in the shape of stars.  She is always thinking of me buying me school items (thanks mom!).  Also, I had bought this very cute patterned masking tape before school started at Office Depot on clearance.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I knew it was cute.  That was all that mattered!

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I found myself wanting a way to attach something meaningful to the award certificates that students were getting for fluency in Reflex Math, and I ran out of Scotch tape. But, I had this cute tape, so my clearance deal found its purpose on students’ reward certificates!  Next, I was trying to figure out a way to efficiently hand out cute pencils to students who scored 70% and up on the Reflex wall, but I had no certificate to attach it to since the certificates went on the wall.   At first I was using square sticky notes to write children’s names on and attaching them to the pencil, but the pencils would get stuck to one another with the tape, and they didn’t look very attractive to say the least.   So, what did I do?Finally, I wised up and used the star sticky notes and attached one piece of cute tape horizontally to the back to hold the pencil on.  The star sticky note would have the child’s name and his percentage of fluency.  Even though I used this idea for Reflex rewards, it could be done with anything.  I think the pencils kind of look like little magic wands!  This is so much better than the sticky Scotch tape mess I started with.  Here is an example below (but I would have the student’s name on the star also).

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